Business is Booming. Where is the Labor?

The U.S. is enjoying a tremendous business revival almost everywhere and in every industry. Many events are contributing to this revival: tax reform, deregulation, expanding, emerging markets, robust technology expansions, growing health care demands and housing demand growth, to name just a few.

The Metal Construction Association addresses the need for finding quality workers

By Karl Hielscher

Karl  Hielscher

So how do you take advantage of this growing economy and grow your business successfully? Once existing capacity is absorbed, the new challenge is first whether to expand to gain from the growing economy, and if your answer is yes, how? Ultimately, one of the most significant decisions involves hiring new employees.

The Metal Construction Association (MCA) polled its members last month to learn what they are experiencing when diving into today’s labor market. Response was strong and quick so this indicates a lot of you are facing challenges. Percentages are of respondents. • 90 percent are hiring with almost 78 percent hiring to expand • 100 percent are experiencing difficulty hiring some disciplines • Traditional hiring sources, industry, educational and military job fairs, are marginally successful • Respondents identified difficulty acquiring talent with the following skills: Manufacturing skills: 50 percent Math and science skills: 35 percent Verbal and computer skills: 30 percent Criminal or drug history: 40 percent Other (not disclosed): 80 percent Recent labor statistics report more job openings than job seekers. Traditionally, if this continues one would expect wage rates rising rapidly, active job hopping and inflationary pressures ultimately affecting growth. While these events are not being broadly reported, they may well contribute to the 80 percent of other difficulties reported.

How Do We Attract New Employees?

How do you seek new employees?

  • Do you promote your business and attractive features of working at your business along with posting skills required?
  • Does your hiring process include candidates being interviewed by your leaders of the business aspects they will interact with rather than just the direct superiors?
  • Do you target competing industries’ employees and not just your local, direct competitors?
  • Do you have an effective onboarding program encompassing different disciplines in your business? Do you encourage and support continuing education opportunities (within your budget)?
  • Have you engaged professional recruiting to review your hiring processes?

How well we attract new employees is a business-wide priority led from the corner office for successful businesses. Practices should be regularly reviewed to ensure your efforts are achieving business goals aligned with your strategy. Allowing one or a few departments to lead while others languish behind often creates constraints to successful growth. This will stunt strategic success as your business is only as strong as your weakest work team. This is not limited to employees.

Remember your Current Team

While expanding efforts to attract new employees and train them to become contributors to your business’ success, always remember your current employees. You are not alone in seeking new employees in today’s environment. Retaining your current employees who are accomplishing great things is much less expensive and much less disruptive than replacing them at the same time you are trying to expand your business. Offer your current team access to the options offered to your new team members.

Make a Difference

We are challenged to create extensive recruiting and training systems to develop qualified pools of employees for our industry. It is time for all of our related industries to collaborate to create educational and industry recognized vocational, apprentice and continuing educations to provide our employees sustainable career paths that ensure real careers, not just jobs.

Challenge our industry associations to work together to make metal construction technology a preferred career path and get involved when they do. It is your business’s future.

Karl Hielscher is executive director of the Metal Construction Association. Hielscher has more than 25 years experience in the metal construction industry, and was president and CEO of a Metl-Span, Lewisville, Texas, for more than 20 years. For more information, go to